There is a new ad for a university on billboards around my city. The caption reads: With the right preparation, extraordinary happens.
This ad has gotten me thinking. What does the word extraordinary mean to me? More specifically, as a Christian, what would it look like to raise extraordinary children? I have to admit, when I think of someone as extraordinary it usually has to do with something visible or tangible that they have accomplished or to which they are dedicated. I think of Martin Luther King, or Mother Teresa, or William Wilberforce — people who are known for having made a significant, unforgettable difference in our world. Closer to home, I look to individuals who have dedicated their lives to working with those who are poverty stricken and broken in the inner city, or those who have left their friends and families to live in foreign countries for the purpose of sharing and living out the gospel. When I think of these people and their remarkable lives, I feel a mixture of admiration and guilt, and maybe even a bit of envy. Because I, of course, do not fit this description. I am not extraordinary.
At the same time I am aware that if being extraordinary really is about making an unforgettable, impressive mark in the world, there are very few of us who WILL fit this definition. Even with the right preparation, we can’t all be extraordinary.
But maybe that’s okay.
Maybe this shouldn’t be our focus anyway.
Maybe instead of striving to be extraordinary, we should rather seek to live well. And seek to raise children who live well. When I think of living well, the people who come to mind are those who quietly but deliberately live out their faith and love for Jesus day after day. It’s the person who notices and talks to the new guy at church who is standing awkwardly by himself during coffee hour. It’s the families who make a point of inviting their lonely neighbour to join them for holiday dinners. It’s those couples who spend their retirement getting deeply involved in ministries they have always been passionate about, but never had enough time for before. It’s those who faithfully pray for and financially support all those ‘extraordinary’ people who are in the trenches of hands on ministry. It’s those who are purposeful about the products they buy, in order to do as little harm as possible to God’s creation and to people they will never meet. None of these acts would be categorized as ‘extraordinary’. These people will likely not be known and admired for the good work they have done. But at the same time through their living well they are essential to the work God is about in this world.
So where does this leave me when I think of how I raise my kids? I guess the answer is twofold. I do want them to be aware of those who have done amazing, exceptional things in the name of Jesus. I want them to see and know that these great acts and lives are possible. But I also want them to understand that a lot of living the life of a Christian is not necessarily going to seem exceptional or remarkable. Rather, it is a life shaped by a love of God and neighbour. It’s being prayerfully open to the work God wants to do in and through you as you go about your day. It’s the small but significant acts and decisions that are made at work, play, and school. It is trusting that God is working even in the small things that don’t seem to matter and don’t seem to be noticed. It is living well. Maybe the billboard is right. Maybe seeking to live well along with with my kids WILL prepare them for something memorable or remarkable. Something extraordinary. But I pray that I will be humble enough not to focus on that, either for myself or my kids, but to simply be purposeful about living well.